INTRODUCTION: In the Western Sahara, Polisario Front guerrillas are continuing their fight for independence. The?
INTRODUCTION: In the Western Sahara, Polisario Front guerrillas are continuing their fight for independence. The area is currently divided up between Morocco to the north, and Mauritania to the south.
SYNOPSIS: The Western Sahara was handed over to the two countries by the spanish in February, 1975, and the Polisario Front has since been fighting a war with Algerian backing. The guerrillas have set up small base camps throughout much of the disputed territory, and from them organise raids on Moroccan and Mauritanian army posts.
The men are able to move fairly freely throughout the area, and have extended their spheres of operation into Morocco and Mauritania themselves. These guerrillas were gathering greenstuff to feed goats at a refugee camp they were visiting while on leave.
A guerrilla leader said the Moroccans had poisoned many wells when they came into the area, but they could still obtain water from other unaffected sources.
The men have also become adept at repairing breakdowns on their vehicles in adverse conditions.
This Moroccan tank, destroyed during a battle between Polisario guerrillas and Moroccan forces, remains testimony to war. It was the victim of a battle fought in the early months of the war, when the Polisario Front was desperately trying to stop Moroccan and Mauritanian troops from advancing into the territory. But since then the guerrillas are said to be successfully tying down about one-third of Morocco's 90,000-strong army in the Western Sahara. As well as destroying a numbers of tanks and vehicles, the guerrillas say they have shot down about 20 aircraft.
A Moroccan pilot, one of about 500 Moroccans and Mauritanians the guerrillas have captured since the fighting started, said he was captured after his aircraft was shot down in an action on February the twenty-eighth. He contradicted a statement by President Moktar Ould Daddah of Mauritania, who said the Polisario troops were Algerian mercenaries. The pilot said he believed the guerrillas were " truly Saharans."
The Polisario Front has vowed to prevent the disappearance of Western Sahara from the map in the division between Morocco and Mauritania, while the occupying nations claim they are only recovering territory taken from them in the colonialist era.